Free the Hole protest drawn by Alyce  Dedicated Idiocy, A personal history of the Penn State Monty Python Society by Alyce Wilson

School Year 1990-1991

There and Back Again: My Trip to London

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Over winter break, I went to London with the University Scholars program. In order to go along, you had to work on a research project while you were there. I was a broadcast/cable major, and I had decided that my undergraduate honors thesis would be a comparison of two comedy schools: the Oxbridge Mafia in Great Britain and the Second City Players in the United States. So this meant that I had a solid research proposal for the trip.

Among my research related activities in London were dropping off letters at both Michael Palin and John Cleese's business offices, requesting interviews. I also did research in the archives of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, which had press clippings going back decades. I got temporary lending privileges from the local library and read several seminal books, including Graham Chapman's A Liar's Autobiography, taking copious notes.

I listened to comedy tapes from The Goon Show, The Two Ronnies and Tony Hancock, which I understood to be influences on the Oxbridge Mafia crew.

On our way to Stonehenge, I read most of Beyond the Fringe... And Beyond, a comprehensive history of 1960s British comedy.

Stonehenge was cool, too.

Stonehenge group shot (Click to enlarge)

While I never heard anything from Michael Palin's office, John Cleese's office called to say that he wouldn't be available for an interview in the window I had. I took it as a victory that I even got a reply.

I spent a day at the National Sound Archives, listening to recordings until my ears were sore, such as I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again (with John Cleese), Hancock's Half Hour, The Goon Show, Once Moore with Cook (Dudley Moore and Peter Cook), and That Was the Week That Was.

We Scholars Program nerds loved nothing better than a good book shop, and I returned with quite a few Monty Python books, the British printings, of course. Fortunately, I'd nested a smaller suitcase inside my larger one on the way here (a tip from our advisor).

My roommate and I also visited the Museum of the Moving Image, which had quite a few displays dedicated to Monty Python, including some materials Terry Gilliam had used to make his animations. I was in heaven. That is, until I caught a severe cold. But hey, it was a British cold.

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